Why I won’t finish every book I start writing.

Old Road (c) greenchild

I had a realization this weekend. One that beautifully illustrated just how little I understand the workings of my own mind. I should be used to moments like this by now, but I’m not. It’s still weird.

At this moment, I have 31 standalone novels or series in progress. Yes, seriously. 31. I just counted. It’d be higher if I counted the books in a series individually. That seems like a lot, but what I realized this weekend is that at least 20 of those will never, ever, be published. They probably won’t even be finished. The purpose of this post is for me to try to explain why. Hopefully I can phrase it in a way that makes sense.

My subconscious works in strange ways and I’ve noticed that several stories will spring into my mind that all focus on a different angle of the same idea. I’ll start writing–usually getting between 5,000 to 20,000 words in–and then stop because either I don’t know where to go from there or another idea hits me and I start working on that one instead. This may seem like a waste of time to some people, but it’s not to me. What I didn’t realize until now is that this is how I explore different variations and angles of a core idea. Sometimes the idea isn’t even what I thought I was concentrating on. One of my newest projects, for example, pulls in an idea I’ve had floating around in my head for over a year with another idea I’ve tried to focus a story on a couple of times already. Only now that I’ve combined the two am I seeing the whole plot laid out in front of me and the possibilities for an entire world blooming around it. Only now do I have a story that might actually see the light of day in a few years.

The same thing happened with The Dream War Saga, as well. I realized when I constructed the world outside of Sing, Sweet Nightingale and looked at the way their universe works that I’d mirrored it on the world I’d dreamed up for my first failed series. The similarities were almost disconcerting until I saw that first series as a way to work out the kinks in an incredibly complex idea.

I’m trying to make a couple of points by poorly explaining this “Aha!” moment of mine.

1) Don’t let anyone tell you the way you work is wrong. Should you try other methods to see if they work better? Sure. Should you give up on yours just because it doesn’t make sense to someone else? NO. A lot of people would look at my folder of forgotten stories and shake their head over all the “wasted words,” but anything that gets you a step closer to having a finished, polished, beautiful book isn’t wasted.

2) It’s okay if you don’t finish everything. Sometimes you have an idea that’s just the beginning of something better. If you find yourself slogging through the first draft and hating it, consider putting it aside. Maybe you’ll find the inspiration you need to go back to it or maybe it was never meant to be finished. Maybe it was just a way for you to work out the answer to a question you didn’t know needed to be asked.

Edited to add: Just noticed this is my 300th post! Woohoo! Somehow I haven’t let this drop by the wayside yet! I’m very proud of myself. 😀

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